Background: Many reports have suggested possible relationships between brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and alcohol dependence. A protective effect of BDNF against ethanol-induced cell damage has been suggested, and this effect may contribute to the development or maintenance of alcohol dependence. This study was carried out in order to verify the significance of BDNF in alcohol dependence.
Methods: Peripheral BDNF levels were measured in alcohol-dependent patients and control subjects using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. A physician's interview and standardized questionnaire were used to obtain information regarding each patient's history of alcohol consumption.
Results: The mean BDNF level was lower in the alcohol dependence group (389.5 +/- 501.7 pg/ml) than in the normal controls (822.5 +/- 420.7 pg/ml) by analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) (F = 25.79, p < 0.01). The mean BDNF level was lower in the alcohol-dependent patients with a positive family history of alcohol dependence (247.6 +/- 289.2 pg/ml) than in those with a negative family history of alcohol dependence (583.9 +/- 652.8 pg/ml) by ANCOVA (F = 6.51, p = 0.01). The BDNF levels did not correlate significantly with any of the variables analyzed in this study, including Beck depression inventory, state and trait anxiety inventory (STAI-S and T), and various drinking behaviors.
Conclusions: Changes in the levels of BDNF might play a role in the pathophysiology and inheritance of alcohol dependence.